When Amanda Daly opened the doors to The Daly Bagel on April 27, 2020 she greeted waiting customers for the first time exclaiming, “We’re open!” Production in the kitchen came to an organic halt and everyone inside the shop began to clap. It was a fleeting moment, but one not easily forgotten.
“Everything came alive in that moment,” said Daly, shop owner. “We opened the doors and life flooded in. Since then, The Daly Bagel has been a living thing.”
And now the boutique bagel shop, recently named by WBEZ’s Curious City as one of the best bagels in Chicagoland, is on the verge of celebrating its one-year anniversary in their retail space housed in the old Zephyr building, 130 Chicago Ave.
“I am proud of how far we’ve come.” said Daly.
“This has been the longest and shortest year of my life,” laughs Adrienne Guldin, Daly Bagel baker.
“So true,” said Daly.
Daly whipped up her first batch of “East Coast bagels with a Midwest twist” in 2018 before officially teaming up with her “bagel partners” Guldin and Leah Garcia. The tight-knit crew baked out of River Forest Kitchen, hosting popular weekend popups at Urban Pioneer Group in Forest Park and offering Daly Bagels at area farmers markets. Daly then set her sights on a brick-and-mortar location and embarked on a buildout expected to take just months, but which in reality, took more than a year to complete.
Once the shop doors opened Daly and her team were on a steep learning curve.
“It would take us all day to make two batches of bagels in those early days and then we would move on to making cream cheese.” said Guldin. “Now we make seven-and-a-half batches a day and have a team working on cream cheese simultaneously.”
Over the past year Daly and her team of baker-employees have embraced their new reality. The first employee arrives at the shop at 4 a.m. to prepare for the 7 a.m. opening. It takes an hour for the revolving tray oven, capable of baking 500 bagels at time, to come to temperature and nearly as long for the adjacent bagel boiling kettle to fill with water. On rough mornings it takes an additional hour to deal with the flood that comes as a result of accidentally overflowing the kettle. Guldin blames early morning absentmindedness when she finds herself with wet feet in the kitchen.
Daly, Guldin and Garcia have settled into distinct roles. Daly, who remains hands on in the kitchen, handles operations, scheduling, social media and general catch all duties. Guldin oversees doughs and recipe development. Garcia is regularly in charge of opening the shop and is not known to flood the kitchen. Today, a total of 32 part-time employees keep the bagel boutique in business.
As for opening during a pandemic Daly and her team see it as a blessing and curse.
“It both helped and hurt us,” said Daly. “On the positive side people were much more understanding about our growing pains, but the pandemic left us feeling separated from the community we want to connect with. We didn’t want this to be a transactional thing.”
The shop, however, benefits from excellent foot traffic despite their “off the beaten path location” and continues to cater to their passionate group of regular customers. Positive press and word-of-mouth have drummed up additional business. As a result, The Daly Bagel is known to have a line out the door with the most dramatic “socially distant” queue extending more than two blocks.
“We constantly remind ourselves we need to go at a pace the preserves quality,” said Daly. “Because, let me tell you, it is almost impossible to fight the instinct to rush when you see a line around the block.”
On Monday Apr. 26, The Daly Bagel will begin a week-long anniversary celebration. Lemon Lavender bagels, with their near cult like following, will be available all week long. While lemon lavender bagels are intensive to make, the shop sees a 20-30% increase in sales across the board when they appear on the menu.
A specialty sandwich called The Yellowstone, created by the Bellmar family as a perk awarded during The Daly Bagel’s Kickstarter campaign will also be available throughout the week. The sandwich features a choice of bagel topped with egg, chipotle cream cheese, pepper, onion, and pickled jalapeno.”
“The sandwich is really good,” said Guldin. “We may make the chipotle cream cheese available for sale on its own, too. It is so delicious.”
What does the future hold for The Daly Bagel? Daly will not rule out expansion down the road but for now remains dedicated to improving her Oak Park shop and ultimately perfecting operations for her devoted bagel community.
Apr 26-May 2: A weeklong celebration at The Daly Bagel
- Bagel of the week: Lemon Lavender
- Sandwich of the week: The Yellowstone
- Monday: National Pretzel Day — Bavarian pretzels, pretzel bagels and pretzel bagel dogs
- Tuesday: One year anniversary — rainbow bagels and 2 p.m. ribbon cutting with Chamber of Commerce
- Wednesday: Neighbor Appreciation Day and maple bacon bagels
- Thursday: Cranberry orange bagels and charity raffle drawing –- customers making donations to a local charity (benefitting charity TBD) will be entered into a drawing for a dozen bagels a month for a year.
- Friday: Open late for music ( until 6 p.m.), with special treats coming out throughout the afternoon –- The Daly Bagel will post on social media when they bring out something new.
- Saturday: Jersey appreciation day and Amanda Daly’s birthday. Jalapeno cheddar bagels, Taylor ham pork roll samples and birthday cupcakes.
- Sunday: Dark Matter day. Espresso flavored treats, Dark Matter Coffee tastings and retail bags for sale. Garlic and herb bagels.